Month: March 2013

Pardon to Sanjay Dutt

There are people who are for or against pardon to Sanjay Dutt. Markandey Katju appealed to Maharashtra Governor K. Shankaranarayanan to pardon Sanjay Dutt. Soon others jumped into the fray on one side or the other. TV channels took up the matter and gave the controversy wide publicity.
Many supporters of Sanjay Dutt are from Bollywood. Some are politicians. Jaya Bachchan, Mahesh Bhatt, Digvijaya Singh, Shatrughan Singh, Mamata Banerjee and Majeed Memon are on the side of Sanjay Dutt. Amar Singh and Jaya Pradha have submitted appeal for pardon to Governor. Mahesh Jethmalani, Swapan Dasgupta, Seshadri Chari oppose pardon to Sanjay Dutt. Subramanian Swamy has said he would challenge the pardon in court if granted.
Article 72 of the Constitution grants President the power to pardon. Article 161 of the Constitution grants Governor the power to pardon. Some argue that Supreme Court has ruled that the power to pardon should not be used capriciously or as act of grace to political activists but for public good. For long, courts held that President’s or Governor’s acts are not justiciable. Since some years courts have gone into the question of pardon after a large number of persons were pardoned in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Reasons given for Sanjay Dutt’s pardon are: he has suffered a lot for 20 years, he was in jail for 18 months, he spread message of Gandhi through his films, his parents did good work, he has done lot of good work, and he has two little children. Those who oppose say those reasons are not good for granting pardon. Law should be same for all. There is equality before law. Celebrities should not get special treatment. What about other convicts in similar situations? Some counter that saying being a celebrity is a disadvantage as it gets adverse publicity. Other convicts are not opposed.
In Sanjay Dutt’s case law has taken its course. Now it is for the executive to take its course. TV channels have blown the issue out of proportion. The pardon relates to 42 months of imprisonment. Death sentence in India is in rarest of rare cases. Many who got death sentences have got commutations to life. TV channels did not hold such discussions then. Nobody has gone to court challenging the commutations.
Markandey Katju said he did not take up Sanjay Dutt’s case because he was a celebrity. He has taken cases of Gopal Dass, Sarabjeet Singh, and Khalil Chisty who are not celebrities. He has not seen a film for 40 years. If others deserve pardon he will consider their cases. After receiving material about Zaibunnisa he took up her case. He quoted the precedent of Nanavati getting pardon for Prem Ahuja’s murder. He wanted to be Portia and not Shylock of The Merchant of Venice. Seshadri Chari said he will send Pragya Singh Thakur’s details to Markandey Katju. On NDTV 24×7’s Left Right and Centre, Y. P. Singh questioned the propriety of Markandey Katju making the appeal and Markandey Katju told Nidhi Razdan that the topic of discussion was pardon to Sanjay Dutt and not propriety of his action and he had answered the question about propriety when he had spoken about Narendra Modi and BJP had raised it and he will not answer again. He told Nidhi Razdan to control Y. P. Singh and when she failed or did not oblige he said “You are not fit to be an anchor.”, and walked out of the show.
Sanjay Dutt’s case is different and less serious than Nanavati case. Nanavati was guilty of murder and sentenced to life. Sanjay Dutt is guilty of violation of Arms Act and sentenced to five years. The argument that Prem Ahuja’s sister agreed for pardon of Nanavati in writing and on that basis Governor Vijayalakshmi Pandit pardoned Nanavati and Sanjay Dutt will have to seek pardon from families of 257 persons who died in blasts is not valid because Sanjay Dutt did not kill them.
Whether Nanavati should have got pardon or not is a different matter. One good thing that happened due to his case was that India abolished jury system. USA and UK continue to have jury system and some decisions of jury defy logic. In Rodney King case the jury acquitted police officers and that led to riots.
A person having children or parents to take care of should not be a ground for pardon. Any rapist, murderer, abductor, kidnapper, pirate, hijacker, acid thrower, or someone who commits a high crime can come out on that ground. The ground can be Bombay was a notified area and therefore the sentence for possession of illegal firearm was five years and if Bombay had not been a notified area the sentence would have been two years or so.
If Articles 72 and 161 are repealed there will be no controversies over pardon.

India trounce Australia

On 24/3/2013 India won the Delhi Test against Australia on the third day and the series 4-0. It is rare for a team to win all four Tests in a series. It was India’s first 4-0 series victory. When the series began all possibilities were open. Australia was not expected to lose all four Tests. It seems it was Murphy’s Law for Australia. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Last year Australia had won the series 4-0 at home. This time it was the reverse. Last time Australia lost 0-4 was in 1970 in South Africa.
Australians were a divided lot. Captain Michael Clarke had problems with some players. Suspending four players during the series was unheard of. Australia did that. One player was vice captain. Another was 12th man. They did not make the presentation asked by Coach Mickey Arthur. The players missed the third Test. Some felt the sentence was too harsh. Some put it as punishing cricketers for not doing homework.
India had home advantage. The pitches suited spinners. Australia did not have good spinners. Their fast bowlers were not effective. Ben Hilfenhaus was not in the team, perhaps due to injury. Losing the second Test by an Innings and 135 runs was the worst part of series for Australia. In the third Test Australia scored 408 runs in the first Innings yet lost the Test. Shikhar Dhawan had made debut as opener. He had backed up early and his bails were dislodged. The Test result could have been different if Australia had made a serious appeal for run out. Shikhar Dhawan would have been out without facing a ball. Michael Clarke joked about it. Shikhan Dhawan went on to score 187 runs off 174 balls. In the fourth Test experts predicted that it will be difficult to score 150 runs in the fourth Innings. Yet India did that easily and Australia lost.
Wrong umpiring decisions damaged Australia more than India.
The series win is a historic one for India. This series did not have Gautam Gambhir. Virender Sehwag was dropped after two Tests. Harbhajan Singh was not in the playing 11 after two Tests. The replacements played well.
How the mighty have fallen. Australia that twice had 16 consecutive Test wins had four consecutive Test losses. They had lost home series against South Africa 0-1 which they should have won 2-1.

Bombay bomb blasts case verdict

On 21/3/2013 Supreme Court delivered its verdict in Bombay bomb blasts case which had taken place on 12/3/1993. TADA Court had sentenced 11 persons to death. Supreme Court reduced the punishment to life to 10 of them. Yakub Memon was the exception. Besides the 10 there were 22 others who got life sentence and many others got sentences ranging from one year to 10 years.
Sanjay Dutt’s sentence came down to five years from six. His crime was procuring a rifle from a gangster which he later destroyed. He had spent 18 months in jail. It means he will have to spend three and a half years in jail. He has four weeks to surrender. He can file a review petition. Other options are seeking presidential or governor’s pardon or going out of India. His sister Priya Dutt is a Congress MP and she can help but it is doubtful whether Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh will be kind towards him. He can go to a country which has no extradition treaty with India and is willing to grant him asylum or citizenship. In that case he has to dispose of his property before he leaves. Otherwise it will be confiscated. Italy may be a good country to seek refuge. Their marines were prisoners in India. If he says he did not get a fair trial in India and the verdict was wrong Italy will be glad to hear that and may grant asylum. Lot of money rides on Sanjay Dutt’s films and producers will be worried. It was difficult for Sanjay Dutt to get bail previously as he was arrested under TADA. Congress did not help him. BJP and Shiv Sena helped him. TADA was allowed to lapse because he could not get bail. Sharad Pawar was the chief minister when he was arrested. His father Sunil Dutt was an MP at the time of his arrest. He did not contest election again as long as Sharad Pawar was in Congress. After Sunil Dutt’s death Sanjay Dutt did not get Congress ticket to contest as MP. He joined Samajwadi Party through Amar Singh but could not contest election as he was convicted of an offence of more than two years imprisonment and Supreme Court did not permit him even though it had permitted Navjot Singh Sidhu. When Amar Singh left SP, Sanjay Dutt followed him.
Markandey Katju, chairman of Press Council and former Supreme Court judge, has appealed to the governor of Maharashtra K. Shankaranarayanan to pardon Sanjay Dutt under Article 161 of the Constitution. There is sympathy for Sanjay Dutt in Bollywood.
After I wrote the above came the news of return of Italian marines to face trial in India. Italy is not safe for Sanjay Dutt. Ecuador is an option.
It is said that 257 people died in the blasts. Some accused are out of India. Some died during trial. Yakub Memon was out of India. He came to India hoping nothing will happen to him. He claimed he was not part of the conspiracy. It seems there was some secret understanding with the police but when he came to India the police did not keep their end of the bargain. His brother had advised him against returning to India. Madhu Trehan of Newstrack had interviewed Yakub Memon on 17/8/1994. He said he did not know about the conspiracy. His brother was involved in the conspiracy and told him on 20/3/1993 in Karachi.
Two main conspirators are out of India and efforts to get them back have not succeeded. One is said to be in Karachi. When India demands his extradition the reply is he is not in Pakistan.
One death sentence in a case involving 257 deaths is too mild a punishment. The blasts had taken place in 12 places. All those who planted bombs should have got death sentence. People would not have died if they had not planted bombs. Supreme Court was wrong to say they were arrows and reduce their sentence saying the archers were in Pakistan. CBI should file a review petition against reducing of death sentences to life. It seems the judges, P. Sathasivam and B. S. Chauhan, were against death penalty. One death sentence seems tokenism. Air India Building, Bombay Stock Exchange, Passport Office vicinity, and Sea Rock Hotel were some of the places where blasts had taken place. The blasts took place after the riots that followed Babri Mosque demolition on 6/12/1992 and Radhabai Chawl burning in January 1993. Sharad Pawar who was defence minister was at loggerheads with Sudhakarrao Naik who was chief minister. Sudhakarrao Naik had to quit and P. V. Narasimha Rao sent Sharad Pawar to Maharashtra as chief minister. After the blasts it became difficult for Muslims to get accommodation in the city and suburbs.
There is talk of 1984 Delhi riots and 2002 Gujarat riots. There is no talk of 1993 Bombay riots. Champions of liberty like Nani Palkhiwala had wanted emergency. The victims are forgotten. Years later, Muslims arrested for Radhabai Chawl burning were aquitted.
Supreme Court slammed Pakistan and the role of ISI. It said Pakistan has infringed the recognised principles under international law, which obligates all states to prevent terrorist attacks emanating from their territory and inflicting injuries to other states. The accused arrived in Pakistan for training and they were received by ISI operatives. They received training from ISI officials themselves on some occasions.
Supreme Court slammed customs and police officials. The police have a specific and special role, a duty and a responsibility, to curb the conveyance of explosives by vigilant patrolling and search and seizure, if required. In the present case, police officers themselves have taken active part in smuggling and transportation of arms and explosives in Bombay. It sentenced eight police officers.
About customs officers it said it is shattering to notice that grades of customs officers, including the Commissioners of Customs, played an active role as members of conspiracy and implemented the plan. Every kind of smuggling activity is devastating to the economy, but the smuggling of dangerous arms and ammunition causes wreckage not only to the economy but also to people’s lives. But for these officials smuggling of weapons for blasts would not have been possible. It sentenced four customs officers. There is contradiction in holding customs officials responsible for blasts but not holding criminals who planted bombs responsible and calling them arrows.
On TV channels the main topic of discussion is pardon to Sanjay Dutt. It should have been leniency shown by Supreme Court to criminals who planted bombs.